United Replacing Cananadian, Europe and Asia Agents with 'Contracters' (source: UAL employee)

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by mlingg, Feb 28, 2014.  |  Print Topic

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Interacting with an airport agent - prefer they be an employee or contractor of the airline?

  1. Employee

    93.8%
  2. Contractor

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. No Preference

    6.3%
  1. mlingg

    mlingg Active Member

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    Hello,

    I have good friend that has been an airport agent for United at Vancouver International (YVR), for almost 25 years. I actually met this person as a results of my weekly flights, back and forth on United.
    I was more than a little surprised to hear some disturbing news from my friend on Tuesday (2/25/2014) of this week about a development at United Airlines.

    My friend stated:
    "They (United) contracted us out. OMG, no job for me! They have Air North handling us, split-shifts no union and they had ad on Craig's List. We didn't even know that all of Canada (YYZ, YYC & YVR) are gone. They contracted Guam, Beijing, Shanghai and all of Europe and Asia to follow... No package. They are not taking calls from union.

    So sad, nothing' happening... No offers on table (from United) union said package may be coming Monday, no info."

    Considering that in all of my years of flying, one of most important things aside from being on a well-maintained plane and flown by a top-notch pilot, is the agents and other passenger service employees. They can make the difference between you getting on a flight, pay a change fee, getting you that upgrade, etc.

    If United is willing to pass off their airport agents to an outside firm, how dedicated and loyal are they to their passengers? I was honestly very surprised that they would take such measure to 'save money' - at the cost of good/loyal customer service?? I find it hard to believe that airport agents working as 'contracted staff' are going to have the least bit of loyalty to either the airline or the passenger. What difference does it make to them..."1K - what's that???" I can just imagine hearing one of these agents saying that. To them it's a code or 'some kind of status'. To the flyer it's meant lots of money and miles in the seat!

    I don't look forward to interactions with staff that don't know me, even though I may see them, sometimes 2-3 times a week. And I'm sure there won't be any discretionary favors done (waiving a change fee or calling the gate to see if they can hold the door open for an add'l 5 mins.

    If you can understand where I'm coming from, please spread the word and hopefully get a message to United that his is not the type of 'service' that we want or need.

    Thanks,
    Marty
     
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  2. LETTERBOY
    Original Member

    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    If you're surprised by this, you haven't been paying very close attention. Contracting and outsourcing has been the thing, both in government and the private sector, for a while. And United is a business. It's their job to make money. If they can increase their profits while providing mediocre customer service, they're going to do it. And so are most companies.

    That's good, because they won't.
     
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  3. mlingg

    mlingg Active Member

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    I can understand cost-effective solutions in any business. However, when you're business depends on customer service and loyalty, I don't think it's a good idea to replace the first person of contact for many passengers with individuals that have no vested interest in making a customer happy or the company successful.
     
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  4. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Letterboy is right - by and large, our federal government no longer hires employees, they simply contract everything out. No worry, as contract employees then can't complain too loudly about their working conditions, salary, benefits, or much else, especially if they are under constant threat of being let go from their jobs at any time.

    Besides, the future in airlines and airports is likely going the way of the virtual assistant at Dulles international airport. Heck, I'm happy to actually be able to talk to a real person once in a while, whether airline employee or contractor:

     
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  5. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    The question is whether they actually will increase their long term profitability. Needless to say, that is probably not the focus of management.

    How about they outsource their senior management layer to a lower-paid contract service?
     
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  6. Max M

    Max M Gold Member

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    Not to thread hijack, but according to a source of mine AA is also wanting to outsource gate agents system wide.

    Whether that actually happens is anyone's guess...
     
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  7. LETTERBOY
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    LETTERBOY Gold Member

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    With Dougie, I'd say that's something he'd try. Don't know if he'll actually be able to do it, but I'd bet he'll try.
     
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  8. Max M

    Max M Gold Member

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    Agreed.

    Though I think Dougie wants to have a "cooling off" period amongst the 'harmonized' AA before he injects some of his famous labor relations "heat" into the new AA.
     
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  9. blackjack-21

    blackjack-21 Gold Member

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    We've been outsourced for so long that we never even realized it when it happened. How long has it been since the arrival of those ubiquitous large boxes that were installed in airport's checkin areas, ten/fifteen years? You know, the one's that asked you to insert your passport, or credit card, or airline FF card so you could get a BP and baggage tag without even having to speak with a real live person. All it took for the airlines with them is to feed them the paper, cardboard, and electricity to have them do what they'd been trained for, and no payroll, pensions, or healthcare (sorry, Obamacare) expenses to worry about, other then to ocassionally oil the moving parts. No human interaction needed, unless of course they shredded your passport before spitting it back at you, or kept your CC or FF card without reason, or you couldn't figure out which slot to insert what and where. Then you had to go searching for the one overworked live person who may have been assisting other pax at a machine 18 machines away from the pesky one that caught you. And the airline's only having to pay one live person assigned to assist at 35 machines is keeping their overhead way down. Welcome to the world of The Kiosk!

    And it's not just the airlines. Years ago I bought our first computer from Dell. It worked fine for a decade, until I finally had a problem with the OS. Called Dell in Texas, expecting to speak with someone in the U.S., but because we were in Canada it was totally impossible to get through to anywhere but an outstation for Dell in India, no matter how often I called, and at any hour of the day or night. Finally had to spend three all-nighters with the agent there who read instructions from a manual and who had to repeat almost every instruction to me because of his (or my not understanding his) accent.

    Another time not too long ago, I had a question for my cellphone provider. Simple question or so I thought. Called during what I thought were regular business hours and got someone in Manila. He had no clue what I was asking, so when I asked to speak to someone here in Canada, he said he couldn't as the offices in Canada were now all closed as they were in a different time zone from where I was, and he switched me to someone in South America, who also couldn't give me the answer. I finally gave up and tried calling again at a different earlier time to get someone in NA who could answer my inquiry.

    Remember all the hoopla when UA began outsourcing all their reservation agents a few years ago to India? Didn't a few other airlines also follow suit at the time, causing an uproar from the pax? Didn't anyone also realize that with all the recent mergers that have been so costly for the airlines involved, that besides the overlapping of routes and schedules resulting in cutbacks to flights and flight crews, there would also be the inevitable cuts to ground staff, even those who had proudly and tirelessly served their employers for so many years. Why would any airline need two seperate checkin areas and ground personnel at an airport after the merger was completed, as after the merger they had to scramble to recover some of the costs of the merger, regardless of their vows not to cut routes, hubs, flights, and people. Memphis, Cleveland, and other smaller hubs and outstations may be just the tip of the iceberg, and we've already seen what the downsizing of flight schedules has resulted in: higher fares with fewer available seats in slimmer and tighter configurations on less and less flights to where we wanted to go.

    It's really a shame what's happened to the people who've been outsourced in so many industries after thinking they had a long term career in their jobs.

    Welcome to the world of robots and other machinery that replaces people, and belt tightening companies that squeeze every last cent onto their balance sheets at a cost to their long time employees.

    Welcome to the INEVITABLE.
     
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  10. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    There's nothing UA specific about this

    Most airlines worldwide, when they fly to other countries, use a local contractor to handling check-in, gate, etc. In the USA AS does this almost systemwide. In the lower 48, they have their own employees at SEA, PDX and LAX and maybe a few more stations, but the rest like ORD BOS EWR DCA ATL FLL MCO IAH they are all oursourced. And in USA when check in for most international airlines, it is outsourced. UA may have a legacy that it inherited from Pan Am of employees abroad, but today's economics mean they are going to outsource that. Just like they have systematically been closing clubs abroad.
     
  11. Jaimito Cartero
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    Jaimito Cartero Silver Member

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    That two billion dollars has to come from somewhere.
     
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  12. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    Can you say "hijack" here? ;)
     
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